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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Dogs Who Travel

Travel rules, but you know what rules more? Dogs. I mean, that's just my opinion, but I love dogs and if I don't travel with mine, I'm making friends with pups on my trips. Eric doesn't take a ton of pictures, but he excels at capturing every dog  he sees, which always makes me smile when going through photos when I get home. Anyway, I thought I'd close out the year with a post full of happy photos, and useful tips for traveling with your dog.

I thought I'd close out the year with a post full of happy photos, and useful tips for traveling with your dog.

If traveling with your dog sounds like something you want to do, and also something you dog would enjoy, great! Let's talk about ways to make it easier and more comfortable for everyone involved:

Stay hydrated
Just like you, dogs need to keep hydrated. If you don't have one of those non-spill bowls that are all the rage for travel times, stop for water breaks for everyone, but mostly for your pup, because they don't have thumbs for opening a water bottle. I always bring along a collapsible bowl and a reusable water bottle of ice water. 

My pup, Pippa, in our dog car seat. She's very chill.

Make pit stops 
Your dog also can't let you know they are dying for the potty. All that extra water has to go somewhere. Check out the rest areas along your way and plan to stop every few hours to let them do their business and stretch their legs. If you also have kids, you're probably doing this anyway. Then you won't be driving 19 hours straight and swear off road trips forever like that last time. Your GPS can show you where rest stops are along your route, or you can download the iExit app. 

My British friend: Vincent Van Dog

Comfy up the car 
Make sure your dog feels comfy and safe in the car, especially if they get nervous like my last one. Our current dog will just flop over and take a nap, even if you're just driving around the block, but I still want her to be comfortable for long rides, so we bring her bed that we can also bring it inside wherever we stay for the night. She also has her own car seat that allows her to see out the window, be contained, and also take a nap. 

Make their crate awesome
I'm not a crate person, but only because our last dog spent much of her life in one her first three years and I was sad for her, so I gave her the choice. She spent less and less time in there, so we put it in the garage. If your dog loves their crate, or it's the best way to travel with them not climbing all over everyone and getting in the way, make sure it's comfortable enough to spend hours at a time in. Get them a cushion or blanket so it's soft and inviting.

If yours, like mine, is a good car rider and doesn't need a crate, then maybe just invest in a seat belt for them, which pretty much keeps them from roaming around while you're on the move and keeps them safe in case you get into an accident. I have this one that clips into your seat and onto their harness. It allows them to move around enough and it's adjustable.

My San Juan Islands dog pal: Rudy Blue

Bring home with you
Just like I like to have a little bit of home with me, dogs feel comforted by something familiar. Bring along a gave blanket/pillow/bed and some favorite toys and they'll be happier. Don't forget their normal food and treats, too.

Stay on schedule
If you feed and walk your pup on a schedule, try to keep as close to that timetable as possible (even if you're giving extra walks and treats - because exercise makes you hungry). It'll keep them from getting confused and feel more normal even in a different place.

Do some research
Make sure you know where you can take your dog and where you can't. Find the number of a vet near where you'll be staying. Just in case. Look for dog parks and pet-friendly dining establishments. Many people bring their dogs to the Oregon beaches, so a lot of stores don't mind you shopping with a well-behaved pooch.

My pup, Rikka, who passed last year. She loved a sling.

Plan ahead
Make sure you're prepared for all the things you're going to do or. Might happen while you're away from home. Here's a list of what to plan for:
  • Bring an extra collar/leash, because you never know when one will get broken or lost.
  • Their fave food is obvs to some. Don't take this as an opportunity to have them sample new cuisines. It'll just make them sick. Remember, if they are very particular, like they'll only eat off of one particular plate, make sure to bring that with. I made the mistake of trying to feed Rikka off paper plates and she haaaated it and I had to make a run to Target for a heavy plastic plate.
  • Invest in Doggles. We have a pair of Doggles sunglasses that Rikka used to wear at the beach or just lounging in the sun. If your pup likes to stick their head out the window, a pair of dog goggles are good for protecting their eyes from flying debris and might save you a trip to an unknown vet. If they won't tolerate them, but love to be outside, maybe a little brimmed hat/visor, and don't forget dog-friendly sunscreen for their sensitive ears and nose. They need protection just like you do.
  • Going hiking or somewhere hot? Get your pup some shoes. Their paws are pretty sensitive, so you gotta protect them, just like your own feet. Maybe bring along a nice cooling collar, too. We have one like this and both dogs have loved it so far. You can get ice packs or use regular ice cubes (though those will be messier). We have one of these cooling mats as well, and it's a big hit, though a little slippery.
  • Pack a carrier. My little one gets tired fairly easily, so when she starts to lag behind we scoop her up and carry her in a doggie sling. This is a good one, and so is this one that's also adjustable, so it's great for short and tall people. She can rest and still be part of things. It's also good for when we head into some shops.
  • Download some phone apps to find dog parks, rest stops & dog-friendly restaurants.
  • Things happen. Look up your route along the way and find emergency vet addresses and numbers to have on hand just in case.
  • Don't forget meds/supplements if your dog normally takes them. You can always keep them in the cooler with your snacks and beverages.

How do you like to travel with your dog?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated monetarily should you make a purchase through them. I thank you in advance for supporting my site, but your dog will also thank you for making their travels awesome.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2023 Travel Resoutions

Somehow, 2022 has been both back to normal and not at all normal, but we were able to get out and travel more than the last two years combined, so I won't complain. We went to Arizona in January, Vegas in both February and July, and made it to Paris and Disneyland Paris in September. All in all, it was a pretty good year. 

2022 was a good year all around, so I thought it would be fun to look ahead to 2023 and talk about the future.

We're sort of back to in-person brunches, though they are further between than they were pre-pandemic, because a lot of the restaurants that were are old stand-bys have closed or are no longer taking large reservations. Many other restaurants stopped doing breakfast altogether, so we have fewer options, but we're trying, and supplementing with other meet-ups, like going to art pop-ups and walking neighborhoods.

We are also back to doing small gatherings for celebrations, like our annual Harry Potter party and birthdays, and our non-profit has, officially, kicked off our return to big fundraisers, which is fantastic, because we're doing good, getting to see people again, and we're doing our best to be safe about it. 

This coming year is going to be interesting and busier than the last three. We don't have a ton planned, but I know more is coming to our calendar:

  • January sees us in Palm Springs for a week.
  • March may have us heading to Los Angeles for a few days.
  • If my mom goes back to Tennessee this year, I may tag along and make her do some Nashville sightseeing before coming back home.
  • Las Vegas is a tentative for July.
  • Late September/early October will have us heading to Toronto and Niagara Falls. I'll keep working on my French for this, in case it comes in handy.
  • I will try to do more Destination Date Nights, like I wanted to do this year, but ended up with too full of a calendar to do very many. 
  • We may try to get back to doing Destination Potlucks, too, since we only did the one and then the world shut down. We'll see how interested my friends are in reviving these and we might intersperse these with Date Nights.
The Travel Goods Show has made a permanent move to Chicago and I'm not sure I'm able to get over there this year, which is disappointing, but not unexpected. I've wanted to visit the Travelon headquarters for years. I guess I'll have to see it in 2024.

In 2024, we're also talking about going to The Island of Hawaii in January and Eric also mentioned perhaps going to Peru, so he could brush up on his Spanish, and probably see cool stuff like Machu Picchu. 

All in all, 2023 is shaping up to be a great year. I can't wait to visit new places, make new friends, eat great food, and plan some awesome parties. 

What are you looking forward to for this next year?

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Happy Holidays 2022

I may be spending the day with friends and family, but I still want to wish you a happy holidays. No matter what you celebrate, or don't celebrate anything, I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Joyous Kwanzaa
Jubilant Yule

I may be spending the day with friends and family, but I still want to wish you a happy holidays.
You gotta do something with your 12' tall skeleton investment :)

My dog was a lovely sport and sat pretty with my tree for this seasonal picture and she got a yummy treat for doing it in this giant, ridiculous bow.

The other week, I hit up a new pagan shop where I got to meet their holiday skeleton (top picture) and Krampus. I feel like he doesn't get enough attention and I propose we bring back more folkloric holiday figures, like Mari Lwyd, Belsnickle, and Yule Cat. Learn more about some here.

While there, I admired their Yule tree with Krampus, lunar, witch, and blessing ornaments. They also had a great selection of solstice and winter legends, traditions, and lore books. 

Learn a little bit of language for your future travels here. This is how you say Happy Holidays in other languages:

French: Joyeuses Fêtes!
Spanish: Felices Fiestas!
Vietnamese: Hạnh phúc ngày lễ
Chinese: 節日快樂 (Jiérì kuàilè)
Filipino: Masaya pista opisyal
Irish: Laethanta saoire sona
Swedish: Trevlig Helg!
Portuguese: Boas Festas!
Turkish: Mutlu Bayramlar!
Romanian: Sarbatori Fericite!
Korean: 행복 휴일 (haengbog hyuil)
Slovenian: Vesele Praznike
Indonesian: Selamat Hari Raya!
Croatian: Sretni praznici!
Hungarian: Boldog Ünnepeket
Greek: Καλές δικακοπές! (kales diakopes)
Danish: Glade feriedage
Albanian: Gëzuar Festat
Mandarin: Jie Ri Yu Kuai
Catalan: Bones Festes!
Latin: Felix feriarum
Swahili: Furaha likizo
Japanese: 幸せな休日 (Shiawasena kyūjitsu)
Hebrew: חג שמח (khag saméakh)
Italian: Buone Feste!
South African (Xhose): Ii holide eximnandi
German: Forhe Feiertage
Dutch: Prettige feestdagen
Hawaiian: Hau’oli Lanui
Gaelic: Beannachtaí na Féile

If you want to learn how to wish other a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year in other languages, check out Babbel, and if you need a last-minute gift, you can save up to 60% off a lifetime subscription. 

Enjoy your weekend, however you spend it. If you need to air your grievances, please feel free to do so in the comments.

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link and I may receive monetary compensation should you make a purchase through it. If you do, know I appreciate it and am grateful for you support.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Last-Minute Holiday Travel Tips

If you're traveling this week, I wish you good luck. I'm sticking close to home until after the new year, but we've traveled quite a bit during this time and it can be pretty hectic and stressful. Let's make the most of your time getting through the airport, packing, or setting out on a road trip with some of these tips. 

Let's make the most of your time getting through the airport, packing, or setting out on a road trip with some of these tips.

Pack light

I know it's winter and you need some sweaters and a jacket and maybe boots, but that doesn't mean you have to take a giant bag. If you've been proactive, you've already either brought small gifts that fit in your carry-on/personal item or shipped them ahead. That means you can strategically pack the rest of your carry-on. Pack two pair of pants and a sweater you can wear with everything, so you can layer. If it's going to be really cold, base layers are not bulky and they insulate you really well. The new long johns are very thin and very warm.. 

Take along 3 or 4 long sleeve shirts and wear your coat on the plane. You can always use it as a blanket, pillow, or stuff it under the seat. Wear your boots on the plane as well and pack a pair of more casual shoes. 

Get there early

If the airport is in your future, make sure you leave plenty of time to get there before your flight. I usually say 1 1/2-2 hours for domestic flights, but with holiday traffic and everything else, 3 hours is a better idea for this time of year. Winter weather, everyone traveling, and long security lines can all conspire against you right now. Packing light will also help you save time here, because you won't also have to stand in line to check your bag.

Go left

If you're not lucky enough to have PreCheck or Global Entry, then you're going to have to suck it up and wait in the interminable lines. Download the TSA app, which will tell you what kind of wait you'll be looking at, but also, make sure you're prepared for everything you need to do. Keep your laptop/electronics and bag of liquids easy to take out of your carry-on, empty your pockets into an outside pocket of your bag, or put them into a zip-top bag to toss in a bin. 

Once you get near the front and everyone is split into other lines for conveyors and x-ray machines, head left if you can, because almost everyone either goes straight or right, meaning the left lines are usually quicker and have fewer families and elderly slowing things up.

Prep your car

If you're road tripping to your destination, you have more flexibility with packing, but you'll need to do a little prepping otherwise. Hopefully, you've gotten maintenance done on your car by now, and checked all the tire pressure and your spare. On top of that, you'll want to make sure you have your roadside assistance number on-hand, an emergency roadside kit, and a back-up battery for your phone. Carry chains if you're going through snowy terrain and if you have one of those plug-in jumper batteries, charge it up before you leave.

Travel during the low times

Believe it or not, there are better times to travel during the holidays. Sure, it seems like they're all bad and annoying, but there are actually optimum times. 

The best time to travel during the holiday season, AAA reported, is before 2 p.m. and after 8 p.m. on Dec. 23; before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m. on Dec. 24; before noon and after 7 p.m. on Dec. 26; before 2 p.m. and after 8 p.m. Dec. 27-30; and before 3 p.m. and after 8 p.m. on Jan. 2. The absolute best times to travel are on Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.

The worst time to travel during the holiday season is between 4 and 7 p.m. on Dec. 23; between noon and 6 p.m. on Dec. 24; between 2 and 6 p.m. on Dec. 26; between 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 27-30; and between 4 and 7 p.m. on Jan. 2, according to the report.

Keep your chill

Above all, remember that everyone is stressed and trying to get through this holiday season. Things will probably go wrong, but freaking out or being a jerk about it isn't going to help anyone. People have to work during this harried time and are getting abuse from all sides. Try not to add to it. The holidays can be hard for a lot of people, too, so give people some slack. Try to be extra kind. It costs you nothing, and makes you feel better about things, too.

I hope you all have a great holiday, or weekend if you don't celebrate, or at least a gentle one, if that's what you need. Share a favorite holiday memory with us all.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

My 10 Favorite Travel Items

Now that everyone is traveling again, now's the time to stock your travel bag or help others stock theirs. I travel mostly the same way every time I go anywhere, no matter where I go. I have perfected my packing list and having a packing plan that works for me and makes life so much easier. Part of my plan is taking the same things every trip, because it's familiar and it works. Here are the things I'm always packing, wherever I go.

Ziploc bags

You  never know when you'll need to separate something from something else, but also when you want to take a bag of cookies with you or keep your wet bathing suit from getting your rental car seats soggy or have an emergency diaper situation. I bring a handful of zipper bags with me anywhere I go. I've used them for snacks, for dirty clothes, for leftovers and for receipts and brochures. They are multipurpose and take up almost no room in your bag. 

I have started replacing single-use bags with silicone Stasher bags. They are heavy-duty and can be used for everything, plus they're freezer-, boil-, oven-, and dishwasher-safe. They're great for keeping liquids in, since a spill inside your bag would be nearly impossible with them.

Back-up bag

Usually when you go on a trip, you buy stuff. That means you may not have room to pack it on your way home. Well, I try not to overpack my carry-on, but it's still just a carry-on. Because of that, I bring along a back-up bag to use for all my overage. I have this one and this one and they are both awesome. Just depends on how much you are willing to spend, but also how much you're restricting yourself on souvenirs when you travel. Sometimes I know I will be buying gifts, so I bring a bigger bag than normal.

Mesh pop-up hamper (laundry detergent)

Whether or not I'm on a long trip, I don't like living out of my suitcase and I don't like mixing my clean and dirty clothes. I have a great pop-up hamper that also works as a laundry bag that I put in the corner of my room to throw all my dirties. Then, before I go home, I can schlep it to the laundry room (or just drag it to the washing machine). I always have a small bag of dry detergent and a stash of quarters, so I'm ready for whatever the situation calls for. I have this one, which has really sturdy handles and four pockets, so you can even take along a book or game to pass the time. It's served me well for at least a decade so far.

Reusable grocery bag

I am a grocery shopper. I don't go out for every meal if I can help it. I generally show up at my destination and take a trip to the store on the first day to shop for breakfast foods, because that's the easiest meal to make and the least exciting to me to eat out. If you want to skip the back-up bag above, you can definitely use your grocery bag to bring back items from you trip. You can also use it as a laundry bag if you don't have that much. I've used it for both of these things before, since they usually have sturdy handles and nice flat bottoms. 

I have bags similar to these, and they're great, because they pack down very small, so you can keep them in your pocket or bag and then use them to carry any purchases your have, or your coat (like we've used them for when the weather is finicky). 

Packable rain jacket

One time I didn't pack my rain jacket and it was a mistake. I've since learned that I should never leave it at home, even if I'm going to Vegas or Orlando. In fact, when it rains in places where it rarely rains, it often pours harder than you're used to, which sucks hard. I know lots of people like to bring umbrellas, but I don't, because a rain jacket is multipurpose. It doesn't take up as much room as an umbrella, but you can pack it down into your day bag and also use it if you happen to get chilly. You never know when a cold snap will present itself, even when it comes in the form of really insistent air conditioning. This is also why I always bring a scarf or wrap with me on the plane.


The sun can really wreak havoc on your eyes. Even when it's not super sunny, you need protection from its rays. While you probably don't forget the sunscreen, make sure you don't leave your sunglasses at home, because you don't want to have to pay 3 times as much as usual by purchasing them at your destination, or looking squinty in all your pics.


Do you get hangry? I know I do! I always have snacks in my bag, because sometimes things don't go as planned and you aren't always in a place where you can get into a restaurant to sate your hunger. Toss a couple of granola bars or a piece of fruit or a bag of trail mix into your bag, just in case. You'll be happy if you have need it and sad if you do and didn't pack it. I also suggest a reusable water bottle, which I also count as a snack. We use this one.

Compression socks

Walking is hard on your feet, not to mention your ankles and legs. Most of us walk a lot more on vacation than we do at home, which can make our ankles swell and really hurt us at the end of each day. I pack a really good pair of compression socks in my bag that I can either wear under pants during the day or put on the second I get back to the room. I've been known to sleep in them when I've had sad, swollen ankles, and they help immensely. I swear by these Zensah socks.


I don't always bring my laptop, and when I do, I only use it in my room. I always bring along my iPad Mini though, because I can read on it, take notes, listen to music and podcasts, play games and even check and answer emails. It's perfect for finding directions for your sightseeing before you leave the hotel and great for watching Netflix when there's nothing good on TV and you need to just unwind.

Back-up battery

Nothing sucks worse than when your phone battery dies as you're trying to call the hotel or get an Uber or take a picture of something awesome. You need a back-up battery. I have this one that will recharge my phone 2 1/2 times before it needs to be recharged. We actually have two, and we each carry one. This way Eric can play games on his phone all day and I can take all the pics I want and text with my mom. Because I can use any cord with this one, I can also use it to charge my camera or share with someone else to charge both our devices at once.

There you have it. The 10 things I don't go on vacation without. I keep a lot of these things in my carry-on all the time, so my bag is halfway packed with all the things I know I'll always need. 

What do you never leave home without on your trips?

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated monetarily should you make any purchases through these links. I thank you in advance if you do.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Simply Having A Magical Birthdaytime

This past weekend was my birthday and I've basically been celebrating for a few weeks, in the most magical ways possible. On the 3rd, we had a Hufflepuff/Ugly Sweater party, where everyone ate, drank, popped Christmas crackers, and then did a mini escape room that I set up in the "Hogwarts greenhouses". 

This past weekend was my birthday and I've basically been celebrating for a few weeks, in the most magical ways possible. With my fellow wizards.

I turned 45 this year, so I wanted to go all out, but in a smaller way than we did on my 40th, where I made everyone dress in 80s gear and we rented out a hall. I surrounded myself with all my besties and had a great time. 

Why yes, my witch hat does have mistletoe on it :) 

I think I picked the absolute worst times to take candid pics of everyone. LOL!

This year, our Harry Potter went very 'Puff-centric, so I leaned way into it.

I always use this time to showcase my non-branded Potter art and crafts from great artists.

It's not a party if there isn't a scavenger hunt of some kind
This shot is 100% to show off my mini Puff tree and this awesome barrel fireplace I made 
myself from insulation foam and 37 different shades of craft paint.

Obligatory food shot - not one of my best spreads

The story behind the escape room is that pixies broke loose (hence the scavenger hunt) and escaped Hogwarts, making off with all the tree ornaments (there weren't any on my tree, just garland and flowers). Guests had to visit the greenhouse and follow the clues in order to find the ornaments, which were their takeaways.

My escape room set-up

A pot of carnivorous plants and a biting boomerang

I loved these ugly holiday sweater ornaments.

Everyone finished, with a little help, and took home a sweet ornament, which is a tradition for my birthday parties, since my birthday is so close to Christmas. 

On my actual birthday, I helped set up (and later, take down) and then attended Yule Ball for PDXpelliarmus, the Portland chapter of Fandom Forward, of which I'm a Head of House. You probably know that if you saw my post in July. Yule Ball is our biggest fundraiser of the year. We drink and eat and dance and buy all the raffle tickets in hopes of winning some of the coolest wizard stuff you've ever seen. 

It's good to be a Very Magical Person.

Shepherd's Pie and roast beef tart + my two boozy beverages:
Felix Felicis on the left and Butterbeer on the right

Just a few of our raffle items - everything is donated by the magical artist community

Two very happy wizards

So much dancing. And floating candles!

Some of our new friends.

Yes, we're still trying to be safe while in crowds. 

We had a great time and made a lot of money for our charity. This year it was The Q Center, which has resources for LGBTQIA+ people who need it, no matter what their needs are or their age. As a non-profit firmly based in the Harry Potter fandom, we have an obligation to combat the harm that She Who Must Not Be Named has done to the trans community, and the queer community in general. We do that by giving back to charities she would fight against and making our events all-inclusive and welcoming to all. You can see more photos and videos of the ball on my Instagram, or PDX HPA's Instagram.

Thank you for spending a bit of time helping me celebrate my birthday. I hope you enjoyed it and you're having a wonderful December so far. Tell me about your plans for the holidays or the new year or just this weekend.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

How To Explore A New Destination On Your Own

 When you are going to a new destination on your own, it’s often one of the most exciting experiences you can have. There are a lot of different ways to approach it, and how you do so will depend a lot on what you are hoping to get out of the experience. If what you want above all is to explore the destination freely and fully, then there are a few main ways that you might want to approach this in particular. Here is some advice on how to explore a new destination on your own much more effectively and enjoyably.

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Research First

It’s always a good idea to first carry out some research before you actually head to the new destination. The more you know going in, the better - partly because you will know how to keep safe and partly because you can gain some tips about the specific place before you go. So be sure to carry out some research if you are keen on making the most of a new place. You’ll be likely to pick up some ideas that you might not otherwise, and you will probably feel generally a lot better about the whole experience. It’s also going to mean that you get a lot more done, because you are able to then draw up an itinerary and really make the most of your time.

Get A Car

One of the very best ways to explore any area is to get a car and drive yourself around. This affords you a certain freedom that you are not going to have in any other way, and it means that you can truly go wherever you want easily and freely. Of course, you’ll need to source a car first, which is not always easy, but as long as you are aware of the options you’ll find you can do it soon enough. You might visit Edmunds and find a used car, hire a car, or even transport your own, depending on where you are traveling. In any case, this is certainly the best way to get around most places.

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Speak To Locals

Your very best source of information is always the locals of an area. They know everything there is to know about how to explore the place, and so you are going to find it’s hugely important that you are speaking to them as often as possible about what to do and where to go. They’ll have a lot of tips that you simply won’t find elsewhere, certainly not online, so that’s something that you are definitely going to want to make the most of. You might be surprised at how friendly most people are in most parts of the world, and it’s certainly something that you can think about if you want to ensure you are exploring properly.

With those tips in mind, you should now be able to explore any destination on your own with ease, and as safely as possible as well.

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